Maja Salvador kasing-api ni Nancy Navalta noon

AT THE height of Director Paul Soriano’s shoot of “Thelma,” with Maja Salvador in the lead role as untrained barrio lass-runner who made it as sprint champion, many went a-guessing that the film at hand was partly inspired by the lifestory of Nancy Navalta who decades ago was rebuked in the local sports world due to the question of gender identity.

I asked Director Soriano about this last December when we went caroling with PMPC members at his shoot in a track- and- field location yet. All he could say was his  “Thelma” shared the same aspirations in life with that of the real life experience of Nancy Navalta who wanted  justice, deliverance, a way out of poverty, etc. one way or other. Of course, young as he is Director Soriano knew by heart the lifestory of Nancy Navalta.

Bumulaga sa national sports scene si Nancy Navalta in the 1990s. Seventeen years old siya noon when she clocked in 11.4 seconds running for track and field in one-hundred meter dash. Ipadala na sana siya sa Atlanta Olympics kaya nga lang sinabayan ito sa mga kyaw-kyaw na siya ay isang lalaki in a woman’s body, etc. Subjected si Navalta sa isang psychiatric, gynecological, and ultrasound tests to assess her gender in at a least four hospitals in the country.

Naimbyerna at na-humiliate ang Navalta at balik siya sa Luna to pick up stones once more carrying with her the trauma dahil pati ang Philippine Sports Commission ruled na siya ay “genetically male.” As in lalaki sa kaloob-looban ng kanyang pagkababae.

This was the most cruel thing that Navalta experienced from even the Phil. press which feasted on her like she was a circus freak fit for stoning. Never was she asked about her own situation nor her feelings considered. In short, she was prejudged guilty for having a muscled and flat chest physique.

Hindi makalimut-limutan ni Nancy ang infamous and humiliating statement ng sports commissioner noon na si Monico Puentabella who said: “I hope this will end it all so that we can tackle bigger problems in sports.”

“I am a woman,” Nancy replied. “It’s cruel to say that I’m not.”Nancy was even instructed by the International Amateur Athletic Federation not to compete as a man or a woman, unless she undertook “corrective measures.”

All these is behind Nancy Navalta now. With Director Soriano’s “Thelma” showing on Sept. 7, one hopes to see the dreams of young women in the country in a bid to make sense out of their dreams to make it as a sprint champion locally or in the Olympics. Just like perhaps the dream of Navalta before which was nipped in the bud, although realized in some ways by becoming a nurturing, mentoring college  track coach herself up to this very time. Bakit nga kaya si Elma Muros ang naging coach kay Maja sa pelikulang ito at hindi si Nancy?

“Thelma” follows after the success of Maja Salvador’s primetime series “Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin,” A Time Horizon Pictures and distributed by ABS-CBN’s film arm Star Cinema, it has  Tetchie Agbayani, Eliza Pineda, John Arcilla, Elma Muros and Jason Abalos in the cast.

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